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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Blood Safari

Deon Meyer

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To purchase Blood Safari

Title: Blood Safari
Author: Deon Meyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 372 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Blood Safari - US
Blood Safari - UK
Blood Safari - Canada
Blood Safari - India
Lemmer l'invisible - France
Weißer Schatten - Deutschland
Safari di sangue - Italia
  • Afrikaans title: Onsigbaar
  • Translated by K.L.Seegers

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Our Assessment:

B : a bit forced at first, but solid once it gets going

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 18/4/2009 Matthew Lewin
Sunday Times . 7/6/2009 John Dugdale
The Washington Post A 21/9/2009 Patrick Anderson
Die Zeit . 18/9/2008 Tobias Gohlis

  From the Reviews:
  • "The action is as exciting as any reader of thrillers has a right to demand. The writing is fluent and coherent and full of insight into the problems of South Africa (although the translation is sometimes clumsy and even, occasionally, grammatically suspect)." - Matthew Lewin, The Guardian

  • "Initially a seemingly aimless series of journeys and encounters, Blood Safari is transformed once the pairís unknown enemies ambush them. Thereafter it becomes pulsating and gripping, though never quite matching Devilís Peak." - John Dugdale, Sunday Times

  • "The basic conflict in Blood Safari, underlying Emma's quest, is between environmentalists and proponents of growth. (...) Meyer is a serious writer who richly deserves the international reputation he has built. Blood Safari manages to be both an exciting read and an eye-opening portrait of a nation with problems perhaps even more complex and agonizing than our own." - Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

  • "Selten ist es einem Autor so elegant und authentisch gelungen, eine plausible Thrillerhandlung aus realen Konflikten zu entwickeln." - Tobias Gohlis, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Blood Safari Deon Meyer introduces yet another loner/outsider, skilled in violence, with a murky, slightly sordid past. His name is plain Lemmer ("I never volunteer my first name"), and he spent a spell in prison for manslaughter; of course, he was pretty much driven to it (though not being able to keep his temper under control did make a bad situation worse). He has two laws he lives by: don't get involved, and trust nobody; of course, by the end he's broken both (along with many, many other laws).
       Lemmer has been working as a bodyguard for a while now. The novel opens at Christmas: Lemmer is, of course, alone -- but at least his boss has a job for him. The client is Emma le Roux, who thinks she saw a picture of her brother, Jacobus, on TV -- a brother who had disappeared more than twenty years earlier. He is now wanted in a local murder inquiry deep in the South African heartland, and Emma called the local police to inquire about the case. It seemed unlikely that it could actually be him, but when Emma's house was stormed a few days after her call by what sound like very professional hitmen she decided she had to look into it after all -- and that she needed protection.
       Lemmer has never had to thwart any attacks on his (mainly government) clients, but he is very good at his job. He has some doubts about Emma and her story, but something is definitely up: wherever they turn, as they travel in search of information, they are followed -- and, repeatedly, attacked.
       Their inquiries take them to several game preserves (and the murders the man who looked like Jacobus is accused of are environmental preservation-related), and for a while the novel threatens to bog down in sanctimonious eco-thriller territory:

People are not truly capable of conservation, though they make all the right noises. It's just not in our nature. Whether we're talking about pumping oil or chopping down trees for firewood, the environment will be the loser. The only way to keep a proper ecological balance today is to keep the people out. Completely.
       And, of course, this being South Africa, there's no avoiding the racial problems that remain a constant. For the most part Meyer presents these quite well, but he can't keep himself from sticking in a plaintive speech or two which feels completely out of place (even if they express truths, and do so quite well):
The mindset of everyone, black and white, is in the old regime, but all the problems are New South Africa. And that makes for an ugly combination. Racism and progress, hate and cooperation, suspicion and reconciliation ... these things do not lie well together.
       Meyer also has some trouble dealing with Emma (to whom Lemmer finds himself increasingly attracted). Like extra baggage Lemmer has to lug along, Meyer keeps her in tow until most of the pieces have been put in place and then, mercifully, puts her aside. And that's when things get rolling, when Meyer gets to let his lone-wolf protagonist do his thing and take on the world, pretty much unassisted (though his boss is helpful in providing the necessary supporting materials -- cars, cash, guns ...). "I'm going to make it right", he promises, and he's going to do it all by himself; he's just that kind of guy.
       Meyer spins a fairly intricate and interesting story, leading back to the events from more than two decades earlier that led to Jacobus' disappearance (nicely using a bit of actual history). An incredible amount of this is not all too plausible, but there's some appeal to this over-the-top intrigue and technological (and other) overkill. Somewhat disappointingly, Meyer offers what amounts to a perfectly happy ending, with a rather too good to be true resolution of all the storylines: given how many different people have so much blood on their hands (including Lemmer, who had to dispatch quite a few interfering folk along the way) it's rather too neat a trick that it is actually justice that is served all around -- and that loner Lemmer might actually find a bit of personal happiness.
       Still, for the most part, Blood Safari is a decent ride, and occasionally it's a pretty exciting one.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 September 2009

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Blood Safari: Reviews: Deon Meyer: Other books by Deon Meyer under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       South African author Deon Meyer was born in 1958.

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© 2009-2021 the complete review

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